The Guest

“You’re late.”

“Woke up late, sorry.”

 

I sat down on my seat and looked up to see her leaning back into hers. I could tell from her expression that I was in for a yelling.

 

“Woke up late? You didn’t sleep at all, did you?”

“Sort of…”

“Seriously, I’m so tired of seeing you like this. Every day you grow thinner and thinner, your eyes are so deeply sunken into your head, they’re swollen from crying, red from rubbing… even your hair looks like a birds nest.”

 

There it was. Every time we met I would be bombarded with her negative observations of me. For a moment my mind drifted away…

 

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Oh, yes, I am.”

 

She sighed.

 

“Look, you and I both know that I know you better than anyone else, so I only say this out of concern. You’ve become pathetic.
Life knocked you down again and again and again, but it only happens because you fail to learn. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. You never listen.
You’re constantly left broken hearted because you trust too deeply, and everyone finds a way to walk all over you – how can you not get annoyed at that?”

“I do. I do get annoyed. I’m just too tired now to bother feeling anymore. I’m sick of the pain, so cut me some slack and leave me alone, will you.”

 

Her eyes opened wider for a moment as she noticed my rebellion. I had definitely struck a chord with her. Good.

 

“I don’t even feel sorry for you anymore, you know that? Sometimes I feel like I’m all you’ve got though, that’s why I stick around.”

“I don’t need you to stick around if all you do is hate on me.”

“I’m just trying to get you to see what you’ve become, that’s all. The whole event left you feeling like you’ll never be good enough… for anything!!!”

 

I squirmed in my seat at the mention of ‘the’ event, but tried to keep myself composed.
It had indeed left me broken. Shattered. It wasn’t the first time either. I had become used to the sound of my own soul breaking, so much so that I sometimes prayed to become deaf to it.

 

“What am I going to do with you? No matter what you try to do, how pretty you try to make yourself look, how hard you study, how kind you try to be, how stupidly trusting you are, you’re always going to end up in the same mess. Want to know how I know that? Because I know you better than anyone else.”

 

Here she goes again, with the whole ‘I know you better’ rubbish. No, she doesn’t… does she?

She straightened up, as though trying to calm herself down before addressing the ‘problem’ in front of her. It made me move in my seat to straighten out my spine too. Ok, I was ready for the next bout.

 

“I’m only saying this for your own good, but maybe you should just leave this place. Think about it. Nothing seems to be working out for you. You have no one to really understand you, your career is practically non-existent because of your degrading health, no one realllly cares about you, you’re not getting any younger either, I won’t even mention relationships… why are you still even here?”

 

I had become robotic and numb over the last few years, all thanks to a rollercoaster of events and problems, but those words did cut me deeply. The worst part? I almost agreed with a lot of it too, until, that is, I mentally slapped myself back into reality and glared back at her.

 

“I know I’m not perfect, I know I don’t have much, I know I’m horribly scarred and I know things keep getting worse, but I have no choice but to get on with the show.
I don’t expect to wake up to a vivacious life, but even if I’m numb, I’ll keep going… because I do have some things to live for.”

 

The door creaked open and we both looked over to see Mum poking her head around the door. “Come down and have some lunch, love, it’s getting cold. Also, who were you talking to?” She looked at me with her usual concerned gaze before disappearing once again behind my bedroom door.

 

I looked back into the mirror and to the uninvited guest who never seemed to have anything better to do than to remind me of my ever growing flaws.

 

“I guess we’ll have to pick this up later as usual then! Don’t forget, I know you better than anyone else!”

 

“Shut up.”

 

With that, I slammed my hand against the cold reflective surface of my dressing table mirror, and then lifted a lipstick to draw a smiling face upon my reflection.

 

Uninvited guests are always the worst kind, no?

 

smile-on-grey

The Troubled School

(A quick 15-minute write up)

The Troubled School

There was once a school which was host to hundreds of students; all different and unique, yet all the same and similar.
It was a very old school in which time had seen the best and worst of students pass through its doors.

One day, in the morning classroom, as the students waited for the teacher to arrive, they hung around in groups, or sat and conversed amongst themselves, doodled on their workbooks or just sat alone at their desks. Some would even bring in their card collections and swap cards with one another.

One of the students, whom we will call ‘Circle’, pulled out a shiny new juice box from his backpack. “Wow”, proclaimed Circle, “I didn’t know I had this in my bag! It’s been such a warm week, and now I shall not go thirsty.” Some of Circles friends congratulated him on finding the juice box, and admired its shiny packaging.

Unfortunately, not all of the students felt that way about it. In another group of students on the other side of the classroom, one student was not happy. ‘Square’, as we will name him, looked on in anger as the others admired Circles juice box instead of his own.
Although the two had never been friends, and from time to time had bumped heads a few times in the past, there wasn’t exactly too much animosity between the two prior to the announcement of the juicebox.

Square, being much bigger than Circle, stormed over towards Circle with a small group of his friends. “That’s mine”, yelled Square, and snatched the juicebox from Circle after pushing him so that he stumbled backwards.
“Teacher, Teacher…” cried Circle, “Square pushed me and stole my juicebox.”
Upon hearing this, Square quickly hid the juicebox in his pocket. “No I didn’t” yelled Square, “But Circle has been cheating on his tests, I saw him with answers on his arm, that’s why  I came over here”.
“I didn’t cheat, look, my arms are clean”.

The teacher shook her head and sighed. “You must learn to speak to one another calmly to avoid misunderstandings. You are both in this classroom together, so if you want it to be a happy environment, show one another compassion and kindness.”

The next day was Sports Day, and all of the students were to participate in the sporting events in order to build a strong team spirit.
During the relay race, the signal went and the first runners flew into action. Unfortunately, for some students, “team spirit” was confined to their own perception of who they wanted in their team and not the whole class, as half way into his sprint, Square tripped up Circle who stumbled forward onto his back and grazed his knees in the process.
By this point, both teams were arguing and fighting in defence of their own teams.
“You tripped our teammate on purpose.”
“No I didn’t, he came into my lane”
and on it went.

The other students were now becoming anxious because of the squabbling.

“Teacher, teacher, Square tripped me.”
“No I didn’t. Teacher, Circle came into my lane.”

The teacher turned to the other students who had seen what happened and asked them what they had seen. No one spoke in fear of making enemies.
“Friendship doesn’t mean that you agree with your friend, even when they’re wrong. It means being able to tell your friend that what they’re doing is wrong but still loving them as a friend.”

The next day in class, during break time, it was clear to see that groups had begun to form within the classroom and those who didn’t want to have anything to do with either group would find themselves being pulled one way or the other.

Suddenly, a paper aeroplane zoomed through the air and skimmed passed Circle, but struck one of his friends in the eye.
“That’s it,” yelled Circle, who had become tired of being picked on, and threw a paper ball back at Square. This resulted in an all out paper projectile battle between both sides, and unfortunately meant that the others who were not wanting to get involved would also find themselves drowning in the paper bombardment.

One of Squares friends punched one of Circles friends, so another one of Circles friends punched another one of Squares friends.

“Stop it, this instance” yelled Teacher. “At this rate none of you will graduate. How can you expect to graduate and have a better future, a better tomorrow, if you can’t try to get along today?”

Later, during lunch time, the divide between the groups had become wider, and even within those groups smaller groups had formed. Some students had become so fed up, so pushed to the edge, that they had broken away from their original groups to come up with their own… radical… ideas. Most of these ideas would be kept secret from the main groups as they knew that they wouldn’t be accepted.

Over the next few days, what followed was an onslaught of fight upon fight by those ‘radical’ groups from both sides, during which many innocent students had been injured and hurt.
One student, originally from Circles side, cut the hair of one of the students who sat near Square.
In retaliation, one student, originally from Squares side, used permanent marker all over one of the students who sat near Circle.
When Circle and Square both heard about what those students had done, they realised that things were getting out of hand now and that  they were no longer in control of their respective sides.

It was spiralling out of control, “We are right and they are wrong”. This was the chant of both extreme sides.

Some students would even try to coax or bribe students from the other side to join them, or to give them inside information.
“I’ll give you some extra lunch money, if you give me some information.”
“I’ll give you some paper aeroplanes, if you give me some of your juice.”
“I’ll give you some juice, if you give me some paper aeroplanes.”

One of the students from the ‘radicalized’ groups, from Circles side of the classroom, would even steal from Circle’s bag and distribute the goods to the other side in order to gain power himself.
This then led to arguments and fights within the whole group.

The students who wanted nothing to do with it all were now becoming fed up too. They were getting hurt in the process and wanted nothing to do with either side.
Some students were even trying to plan on how to leave the school and move to another one.

The school was a mess.
There was graffiti all over the bathroom walls, notes passed around the classes with rumours and lies on them, and even the lockers had been smashed up.

“You have all failed” said the teacher during the end of week assembly.
“Instead of trying to come together in compassion, kindness and understanding, many of you have instead turned to violence and wrong means.
It shouldn’t matter where another student sits in the classroom, or what his grades are, but remember that you are all students in this school. By misbehaving, you have brought this school to ruin – who would wish for their children to come to this school now?
It was wrong for all of this to start to begin with, but each group has done wrong by then involving those innocent students who just wanted to graduate, but now can’t either.
Each side has done some wrong in their own way.
Do you not all see how far the effects of your actions have travelled? It was never just about you as groups, but as a school as a whole.
Hurting one fellow student, or doing them wrong, is like doing wrong upon all of the students in this school.
This once beautiful school now lies in ruins.

However… there is still hope. If you learn to get your acts together, study hard, and respect your fellow student regardless of your differences, then you can all graduate together for a better future.

It’ll be a tough journey as hatred and ill feelings don’t exactly disappear overnight. However, if you try hard enough, and think about the wider picture as opposed to just your own interests, then there is still hope of graduating.

We are all one. We are one school. Let’s take care of it.”

Alas, that was the story of the troubled school.
What? What did you think I was talking about, World Politics?

 

© Naziyah Mahmood, 2016.

Grass (New Short Story and New Page)

Excerpt:


‘Is it over?’

My ears ring with a deafening tone which slowly subsides to a gentle ringing sound. I can suddenly feel grit in my mouth, and the taste of a mix of blood and soil.
The smell of smoke, gunpowder and decaying flesh hits me hard and I slowly begin to feel some movement in my fingers as they slide over my torn flak jacket.

Then, I see. I pry my eyes open, tearing at the crusts of blood that had sewn my eyelashes together, to reveal a sequence of moving blurs.
Apart from a few scuffling sounds, and some distant rumbling, the scene had grown eerily quiet; the battle was over, but who had won?

Slowly, I pull myself up to a sitting position and cringe at the shooting pain I feel travelling through my right leg. I then carry out a mental examination of the damage I have taken and hope to God that I won’t be in need of any amputations.

‘Still in tact… sort of.’

I really don’t want to get up, but I have a feeling that if I don’t then I’ll be left behind for dead.”

FULL STORY HERE

The bus stop (new short story and a new page)

Excerpt:
“The tranquillity of a late night stroll can be appealing to those who seek peace of mind and internal-calm.
Crisp night air, mingling with the dull taste of a cool and gentle rain, can combine to create an atmosphere of reflective serenity and wakeful meditation.

With a black, leather briefcase safely tucked under his arm, he casually strolled along the quiet city street with absolutely no qualms in regards to his drenched jacket or soaking hair.

It felt invigorating. It was cleansing.

His shoes clapped against the pavement which acted as a welcome distraction in the silence of his empty path, and the silhouette of the vacant bus stop grew closer with every step.
It enticed him with the offer of a cold metal seat which could comfort his growing sense of lethargy which had only been heightened by the sleepy atmosphere of this late night promenade.

As he approached the stop, he noticed a soft muffled cough resonating from under the canopy… ”

Full story HERE.

It’s a Girl!

(Written as part of The Daily Post: Daily Prompt – Adult Visions: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?)

 

It's a girl!
I would like to announce the birth of my beautiful baby niece, born Tuesday 22nd July, to all of my fellow bloggers and readers!
This is the first grandchild on our side of the family, and so my family and I are incredibly excited and full of joy!
(My sister and brother in law are still at the hospital, and so I am yet to hear all of the details; possible name choice, weight, time of birth etc.)

As I sit here in my sister’s house, waiting for my new niece and her parents to return home from the hospital (I’ve secretly decorated the house in anticipation of their arrival!) I found it almost ironic that the question posted in today’s Daily Prompt was to do with childhood.

In reflection of the current moment of joy, I’d like to address the question in the most fitting manner possible, as a quick letter to my niece.
I will most likely write a longer and more meaningful letter in the near future for her (maybe even a quick video!?), but this will have to do for now!

 

To my beautiful, my beloved, my darling,

As I sit here in your future home, anxiously awaiting your arrival from the hospital; I find my mind to be a complete jumble of things I’d like to tell you. Where could I even begin!?

You, my precious, have been born into a world that has many faces; many beautiful, some terrifying, and others confusing.
Just as I discovered through my own growth and years, the steps you now take will be instrumental in shaping the beautiful woman you will become, and I have no doubt that you will blossom into the most beautiful of flowers.

God has blessed you with wonderful parents who have loved you long before you were born today, and I know that you will be surrounded by the safety of their love and compassion for the rest of your life.
Your mother – my older sister – can be a little demanding! So you must learn patience, my sweet. However, I have seldom met anyone as caring, loving and thoughtful as she, and so I know you will cherish one another, even in those moments of naughtiness and yelling!
She will be the arms that give you warmth.
Your father – who is truly like a brother to me – can, at times, be somewhat abrupt! So you must learn compassion and empathy, my dear. He is a man of strong values and virtues with a heart of gold, and I am proud that he was the one to have taken my sister’s hand in marriage.
He will be the guardian that protects you.

You have loving grandparents from both sides, who are all so very happy to have you with us, and many proud aunties and uncles.

Your mother and I have always had a special bond, one that went beyond just sisterly love. She was my best friend, my confidante, my shoulder to lean on and was always like a mother to me.
For this reason, my dear, I will not only be your embarrassingly proud Aunty Naz, but I will be your sister, I will be your friend, and I will be your partner in crime!
(To be honest, I’ll probably be the one hiding behind you every time we do something naughty! At least I now have a side-kick!)

Unlike many children around the world, you have been blessed to be born into the safety and warmth of a loving and secure home. No matter how bad a circumstance may be, always remember that you are so very blessed, and very deeply loved.

I hope to see you grow into a wonderful and inspiring woman, one who will always stand by the truth and what she believes to be right.

No matter how many people stand against you, always stand by the truth, my love.
No matter how many people stand with you, always remain humble in your actions and words.
No matter how much the World may try to pull you down, always stand by what is true and just.
No matter how much the World gives you, always strive to become better than yesterday.

Hold strong to faith and frequently remember your blessings, for you are wonderful.
Hold dear the morals and teachings that make us better humans, for you will shine bright.
Stand strong in your convictions and adhere to righteousness, and you will defeat the doubts.
Stand strong in your love and devotion, my sweet, for you will conquer fear.

You have been born into a warrior cast, so always fight for justice but spread only love and peace.
As you grow, open your mind to all the beauties of this universe, and travel through its wonders and marvels on the wings of your imagination, for it is a powerful tool.

This is a world in which people can often give in to the pressures of society and their peers, and it can often happen without us even realising. Do not ever be afraid to be yourself, my darling, because there is only one of you on this planet, and as such needs to be known.
You are amazing just as you are, so just be you.

Always remember, my darling, that you are loved. You are loved by Allah, by your wonderful parents, by your loving grandparents, and by many who would happily cross the world to be by your side.

You are loved by this crazy, sugar-addicted, sword swinging, cosmic travelling, over-talkative, and embarrassingly proud Aunty Naz.
Our family has always been small, but our bonds have always been tenfold as strong for that reason.

In ten to fifteen years from now, when you read and understand these words, I pray that we will be so close that you will be reading the words aloud to me as I brush your hair or paint your nails.
(Keep in mind that I’m the cool aunt!)

Enjoy every moment of your childhood, and should you ever need someone to turn to, always know that He (the Almighty) will be with you always, and that I will always be looking over you.

You are beautiful.
You are exquisite.
You are blessed.
You are sensational.
You are truly unique, my sweet.

… You are loved…
I love you, and you are always in my heart.

Your crazy Aunty Naz.

Phoenix Flames – The Healer

(Written as part of The Daily Post: Daily Prompt – Can’t Stand Me: What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?)

phoenix1

(Photograph of Naziyah Mahmood for Caledonia. Photographer: Linda MacPherson)

(For those wondering why my face looks orange (as I’ve been asked a few times!) it’s supposed to be because of the flames! Haha! I’m not an oompa loompa!)

Recently, a lovely friend, Amy Hoff, has produced her wonderful novel, Caledonia, into a full out online series which revolves around a criminal investigation group – Caledonia Interpol (consisting of a variety of mythical creatures from all over the world) who solve crimes in the faerie and human realms. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it!?

Through it, she wanted to show the diversity of the Scottish city of Glasgow, and it’s many faces and races; so she decided she also wanted to cast a strong Muslim female character too, and apparently got in touch with me!
(Not that I consider myself strong!)
The first season of the series is already released, but my two short scenes would only be for the second season (due to my time restrictions).

Mythical creatures from all over the globe, and all sorts of folklore, are used in order to beautifully portray the cultural diversities in the World.

Most of the main type of creature roles were already taken when I was asked to help out; vampires, selkies, angels, mermen, werewolves, gumiho, Robert Burns (though he isn’t very mythical!), and so she asked me what creature I wanted to be.

Taking into consideration that she wanted creatures from all continents and cultures, and that I have an Arabic lineage, I told her one of my favourite mythical creatures – The Phoenix.
Long story short, let’s just say that the Phoenix has somewhat become my ‘totem’, and has been a prominent part of my life for many years.

The character, whose background story is still being developed by the director, during her initial reveal became more and more like me in some ways, and as such means a lot to me.

Her name is Nour (which is the same as my middle name – Noor) and she is a Phoenix and healer.

The role is a small one, but is important to the story.
Unfortunately, although offered a longer role, I couldn’t be in more than I have as I don’t have much free time to help out nowadays. However, I might appear again, in short scenes, in the future if I get enough time to help out again.

Now, in regards to what is asked in the prompt (don’t worry, it’ll tie in!)
Personally, I’m never very fond of seeing myself in video or hearing my voice through it! Do you ever feel that you sound and look like a completely different person too?

‘I don’t look like that, do I?!’

Well, during the filming of my two short scenes in this series, I was actually feeling quite ill and had been rushing back and forth a lot (also, my mum had just come out of hospital and needed me there to take care of her).
I just hope the illness or fatigue won’t show in the actual clips, but then again, when am I not ill or tired!? Haha!
I just don’t want to bring down the rest of the cast and story with a performance that isn’t up to scratch.
It hasn’t been released yet, but I’ll only know when it’s out – eek!

As opposed to the first season which was much simpler in its design and filming, this upcoming second season will apparently be using more professional filming techniques and special effects!

Well, at least I didn’t fall over, for once, on set! Looking on the positive side!

Luckily it’s only two short scenes, so I won’t need to cringe for too long at my clip or my voice!

Naziyah Phoenix Close
(I’m not really a ‘selfie’ kind of person, but this was the ‘human’ me as I rushed off to the set! I am part human too… on some days!)

The Case of the Guilt Ridden Tattoo

(Written as part of The Daily Prompt: Daily PostAn Odd Trio: Today, you can write about whatever you want — but your post must include, in whatever role you see fit, a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel.) Sorry, it’s another rushed post!

 

“What do you make of it, Detective?”

The lifeless body, permanently contorted into its freakish form through the typical characteristics of rigor mortis, lay splayed across the alleyway floor; a single beach towel was used to conceal the identity of the newly deceased man.

The stale air that filled the narrow alley was further contaminated by hoards of onlookers, all wide mouthed and shocked from the presumed criminal incident that would probably be making the front page of tomorrow’s newspapers.
The barrier of police officers was the only line of defence for our investigation against the bright flashes of reporter cameras and forced microphone clad hands; just another day in the big city, it seemed.

With a handkerchief pressed firmly to my lips, I lifted the towel to examine the body, and the familiar smell of slowly decaying flesh still managed to lick at my senses.
There were no clear signs of a struggle or physical abuse to the body, and yet, the eternally carved expression of sheer horror on the man’s face told a different story.
His mouth was open, a once slack tongue peeking out from its depth, and the darkness of the protruding vessels on his eyeballs made it clear that this man still had something left to say before he died.
We would find out more after a thorough autopsy.

“I’ve questioned the cafe maid, chef and staff, Detective. We’ve started testing the food inside for any signs of poisoning.”

I examined the tattoo on the upper right arm of the corpse which consisted of a few symbols of hieroglyphics. Anubis, the ancient Egyptian deity of the afterlife.

“What have you got on the man so far?” I could feel a slight dizziness take over my mind, which was strange as I was more than accustomed to these kinds of murder visuals.

“Nothing special. Abel. C. Alexander. Born 18th May 1974 – well, not a very happy fortieth birthday for him today then, huh. He was a historian at the large Town Hall Library, but left work three years ago to travel.
Seems he’d been stopped at customs a few times because of a few artefacts he’d decided to bring back with him. A few cracked vases, some antiques and an ottoman filled with old trinkets.
No sign of a wife or kids… Closest relative passed away three years ago.
No criminal record, no medical faults, no outstanding awards or merits. Just another face in the crowd, don’t know of anyone who’d have had a grudge.”

His clothes were simple; a dull green sweater with a few small tears at the top of one sleeve, black creased trousers, and a pair of brown shoes that I can only assume were once white.
There were some food stains down the front of his sweater and trousers.
I guess our friend had ordered the chef’s special soup of the day, the last bowl of soup that he’d ever have.

As I continued with my own analysis, I could over-hear the conversation between the investigators and the people they were interrogating at the crime scene, but nothing worth value would creep up in their conversation.

No one held a grudge against you, and yet everything about you, Mr Alexander, tells me that you managed to upset someone, somehow.

I looked once again at his tattoo, and on closer inspection I noticed three faint and fading scratch marks surrounding it. They coincided with the position of the small tears on his sleeve.

No physical damage, bar these scratches. Possibility of food poisoning is low since the other customers were not affected by the same dish. Looked like he lived a healthy enough life, so the chances of sudden cardiac arrest don’t really make sense.
Everything looks normal…
Foul play is a definite afoot though.

I held my head as the dizziness became more prominent, and decided that I should probably call it a day; I could examine the evidence in more detail later.

Just then, a spotted Mau cat strolled out from behind a garbage bin and slowly came to a stop a few meters away from me and the deceased Mr Alexander.
Our eyes met… my dizziness stopped.
The air had suddenly changed, it felt as though a damp and humid cloud had descended upon us and I could taste a murky, and almost sand like texture in my mouth.

For someone who never worked by their own bias, I could suddenly feel the heaviness of the guilt that Abel Alexander had probably felt prior to his death. How could I feel this when I don’t know what happened?
The atmosphere became so heavy that I could feel my lungs tingle with every breath – I was caught in a gaze that transcended our worldly plane.
Images flashed across my eyes of times long gone, and sped through a time-span of millennia in the space of a few seconds. Was I hallucinating? Could the long day be taking its toll on me? Why could I not look away from those glassy feline eyes?

…Thief…

“Erm… You ok”

I turned my head to see my colleague looking at me with a confused expression.

“We’ve finished wrapping everything up here, Detective. Just gonna take the body over for examination. You coming?”

I nodded slowly and watched as he walked away. I turned around, my eyes scanning the scene for the feline fortune teller, it was nowhere to be seen and I took a deep breath to gather myself again.
From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a cat’s tail as it turned around the corner; however, the once soft brown fur was covered in a thick, crusty layer of food.
At least someone enjoyed the lentil soup.

As a detective, I base my work and analysis around logic and reasoning, and I develop my hypotheses and theories on evidence and hard proof.
However, in my line of work, I’ve come to learn that there are, indeed, some forces on this Earth which cannot be explained through physical or tangible evidence. As such, we sometimes need to go on a little faith and hope that we are guided to the right conclusions through the power of the unknown.

I got up, dusted off my trench coat, and slowly turned the corner in search of my feline compass who may be able to help me solve this mystery.

Here kitty, kitty, kitty….

 

anubis